The University of South Carolina hosted the National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Walk on Feb. 26 to raise money and awareness for those struggling and in recovery from eating disorders.
The event began on the Russell House Patio where more than 100 people were in attendance, including USC students and faculty and a NEDA coalition from Furman University. Participants were encouraged to visit booths to get pins, bracelets and temporary tattoos in support of NEDA.
Before the walk, participants individually, and on teams, raised money by reaching out to family and friends and posting on social media. In total, the participants were able to raise $7,227 in support of NEDA.
The donations go towards NEDA’s many programs and services that counter eating disorders, such as their eating disorder screening, research studies and the helpline.
Delaney Black, a fourth-year hospitality management student, was one of the people who benefited from these programs, and who now fights to help others. Black was one of the top fundraisers for the walk and she hopes that her efforts will support other people like herself and spread awareness for eating disorders.
“A lot of people don’t realize that NEDA is like a big resource for eating disorders,” Black said. “It's actually one of the things that finally helped me to overcome mine, was seeing how many other people go through what I’m going through at the same time and connecting me to other people.”
The walk itself was organized by Karen McMullen, the Columbia walk coordinator, who first got involved with NEDA after her daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder 10 years ago. While her daughter, Ashley, was in recovery in North Carolina she found out about NEDA and asked her mother to do a walk with her.
“One of my biggest fears is to stand up in front of people and talk,” McMullen said. “But, you know, for [Ashley] to have to walk into a treatment center and face her biggest fear, which is food, six times a day. You know, it's like, hey, if she can do it, I'll be brave.”
Even though her daughter is firmly in recovery, McMullen said she still organizes these walks because of other people struggling with eating disorders, which has spiked due to the pandemic. She hopes that the walk will not only raise money for NEDA but encourage someone to reach out for help with their eating disorder.
Before the walk began, McMullen invited speakers onto the stage to talk about their experiences with eating disorders. Nicole Matros, a psychologist at USC, explained that reaching out for help can be scary but can result in several options and a lot of support.
“Most importantly, I have learned that full recovery is possible. Recovery is a journey, and everyone's journey is going to look different,” Matros said.
The event culminated in a walk around the Horseshoe, where participants reflected on how eating disorders have affected them and the people they love. They also held up handmade signs in an effort to bring awareness and hope to those affected by eating disorders.
The event coordinators and staff said if students or someone they know are struggling with an eating disorder to reach out. They can get help from the NEDA helpline, as well as at the health center on campus.
People who are interested in supporting NEDA, can visit https://nedawalk.org/columbia2022, and make a contribution to the website, which will reopen on Feb. 28